#185; fiction — this is not an invitation

Two years ago, I first posted an excerpt from my epic project, The Guardians, and I’m still editing, re-writing, and plotting for the (I hope, eventually) 9 book series. In the original piece, we meet Ryan McGill and Dana Fallon, two of the main characters of the first three books and the namesakes of the entire series, they’re The Guardians.

I’d like to share another piece with you today (this one from the 2nd book, it’s been about a year and a half since the first piece), in an attempt to motivate myself to work through my current post-move-high-has-ended-depression. Let me know what you think in the comments, and of course, if you’d like to see more.

A quick note: All the religious information/mythos is based on web research; I’ve never been to Tehran and only know what I’ve read about Islam, so if I’m incorrect or too embellished on anything in particular, please feel free to point it out (though, also please keep in mind that this is a fantasy novel in which lazy Japanese vampires, billionaire playboys, Irish saints, 14-year-old mystical sex-obsessed dictators, and bawdy Russian badasses roam free…). I also want to say that if anything I’ve come up with is offensive, it’s merely a question of ignorance, not intent.

“But why Tehran? We should be guarding the Hill; you know that.” Dana huffed again as the plane came to a full stop.

“And you sound just like your Grandfather, you know that,” she mimicked his accent, unnerving him. “I know Tara Ciar better than any one in the world – this one or any other universe,” she crossed her self quickly as they stepped out in to the sun light from their jet’s protective shade and put up the yashmak on her hajjib, only her dark blue eyes showed as every inch of skin was covered by the traditionally conservative Shi’a Muslim women’s uniform. “I just know, all right? I know she’s here and I know who she’s looking for. I can’t believe I didn’t realize it before.” She bowed her head lightly to the man waiting to help her off the stairs at the tarmac and allowed him to take her hand gently. “Thank you,” she said in perfect Arabic. “Tara Ciar will be looking for soldiers, no? And we barely missed her in Spain which means I know she’s here now – Cleveland would have told her all about Muhammad al-Mahdi and she’ll see Shi’a Islam as a gold mine of able bodied believers willing to do her dirty work. She’s impressionable, she’s young, she’s an idiot – and I taught her all she knows. She doesn’t have our connections, she doesn’t speak Arabic and I doubt she knows who al-Mahdi really is, which we do – so would you stop complaining and help me with our bags?”

Dana stuggled along behind her with a duffel bag that looked as if it had all ready been half way around the world. “al-Who?” He asked.

Ryan McGill sighed and turned abruptly, pulling her hand in a shocking gesture from the man who had held it. She whipped around so quickly, Dana’s attention snapped to her face immediately. “Don’t you ever read the books I send you? Literature from all around the world at your finger tips and a mastery of the modern communication world wide network and you don’t know a single thing about the job we’re the only two people in the world who’ll do.” She shook her head and allowed a service worker to bring their bags to the car that waited for them rather than continue dragging them herself. Luckily, Ameryth had once… ‘come in to contact with’ (as they said, she was Catholic after all)… with a member of the Saudi royal family who was now a rather important member of the Iranian government as a Shi’a cleric under the Ayatollah, they milked this connection and had papers with them, ‘proof’ that they were of the highest importance as visitors of the President and his religious advisers. Ryan sat in the back of the back of the black and tinted sedan and turned to Dana, who slid in next to her. “The twelfth Imam. The Hidden Imam.” He still looked clueless. “The Jesus Christ of Islam.” Still nothing and she rolled her eyes again, her voice clearly impatient, “You’re supposed to be some sort of genius right?” Softening her tone and sighing deeply to calm herself – her sarcasm was usually too much for Dana and she knew it – she said, “He’s a legend – a mythos in modern Islam. He’s one of the things that separates Shi’a Muslims from Sunni Muslims – Iran from Iraq, Saudi from all of the Middle East – it’s like Catholicism verses Protestant only with much bigger civil wars.”

Closing her eyes she relaxed her neck and lay back in the car, knowing they had a long ride and he would need to know the whole story either way. “All right… The core of the Shi’ite religious world view is the Hidden Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, ‘The Guided One’.” She told the story of the Hidden Imam, to return to lead Shi’a Islam at an unknown date, the man Muslims around the world had been searching for generations for. Coming to the end of the tale, she finished, “contemporary Iranian politics can’t be divorced from the fundamental religious tenets of Shi’a Islam. Make more sense now?” She opened her eyes, they had been closed for most of the tale, allowing her voice to modulate low and honey to drip from it, Dana’s eyes were slightly glossed over behind his thick glasses and he was smiling slightly goofily. “Did you hear a word of that?” She asked, only for him to nodded slightly and then look confused once more.

“So what are we doing in Tehran if this guy doesn’t exist?” He asked.

“Well, the Twelvers – the Imam’s followers – are almost all here in Iran. 90% of the population is Twelver. Following?” He nodded.

“So we’re looking for a Shia Islamic man in the middle of that religion in all the world?” He asked, still having no clue why she was so confident of their latest destination.

“No, we’re looking for a street vendor in the dirty district who’s name is Al-Am.” She said it so matter of factly that Dana never thought to question how she knew who they were looking for when hundreds of years and millions of people had never been able to find him. He did not ask how she had known they should be in Tehran or how Tara would know any thing about the foreign capital; he did not ask why Ryan’s ocean blue eyes seemed to mist over a bit as they passed a particularly tall and imposing – American looking, if you asked Dana about it, but nobody did – building in downtown.

The duo deposited their bags and through Dana’s protests and confusion, they made their way through to what Ryan called the “dirty district” – tight passageways and cobbled roads teeming with street vendors and shoppers shouting in Arabic. Some men stopped their conversation to watch the pair pass – Dana was very obviously a tourist though they couldn’t place where the woman he walked with could be from. She moved fluidly, as if she knew the streets as well as her own in New York, and she wore the hajjib as if she’d always owned one. Dana wanted to ask about the strange looks they were getting, but didn’t have time as she came upon a middle-aged man selling lamb kebabs from a dull street cart. Ryan walked close to the man as if she knew him and smiled behind her veil – Dana could tell from the look that took over her dark eyes – she spoke in Arabic so that Dana couldn’t understand her, “Al-Am, I’m back, and I need your help. You know who we are,” she indicated Dana, “Tara Ciar is on her way for you, we will not ask you to join us.”

A look of surprise came to the man’s face, and then recognition, as he listened to Ryan re-introduce herself. She then switched to English and said, “This is my travel partner, Dana Fallon of Tara Hill, Ireland.” Dana made a sort of nod of his head before the man split into a wide grin and began peppering rapid fire questions at Ryan in Arabic.

“But, lovely, where is Mr. Crain? You were glowing when I saw you last, you were his whole heart. Who is this stranger you come with? Why do you visit Tehran without Mr. Crain?” Ryan’s face masked and she showed none of the confusion and fear in her heart – Crain, a name she had avoided for so long, seemed to be everywhere in Iran.

“Al-Am, I told you, this is no polite invitation, you must come with us now.” Al-Am looked around, a bit sadly, and said to her, “I knew you’d come eventually,” before holding out his arm for her to take and walking solemnly with her back to the hotel much like the prisoner he now was.

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